Every once in a while, we here at Paste are going to try to slough off the lens of irony through which so much modern entertainment is viewed. We’re going to give the so-bad-it’s-goods their sincere due and take an earnest look at the things you might think can only be enjoyed ironically.
I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point the ubiquitousness of TV sets and America’s frantic bloodlust for football turned the Super Bowl into a perfect storm of advertising. Somehow that perfect storm started feeding off of itself, and now there are droves of people who are categorically uninterested in football, but won’t miss the Super Bowl because they want to see the commercials. They’ve become like flash fiction, easily digestible little morsels of entertainment that hit you, four or five at a time.
My absolute favorite Super Bowl commercial came in 2009 and it lasted less than one second, a quick cut of Windell Middlebrooks screaming “High Life.” It’s the only one I remembered that year, and I laughed for five minutes. It tells the viewer literally nothing about the product except for its name, but somehow instantly makes you want to buy whatever it is because of how starkly the minimalism contrasts with every other overstuffed 30-second ad that surrounded it.
(To my knowledge, this year there was not a one-second ad for a beer that doesn’t taste good, but said beer did take the crown in Paste’s own cheap American beers bracket.)
There was, however, the exact opposite of that: a ludicrously over-the-top ad for Georgia personal injury lawyer Jaime Casino. He bought an entire two-minute block of advertising to weave a complete origin story for himself:
My first instinct after seeing it was to set up a projector at the art museum and sell tickets to the Greatest Commercial of All Time (“greatest” in 2014 means “the most recently-viewed and ridiculous,” for better or worse). But remember, we’re in the irony-free zone. This is a safe space, and we’re judging Mr. Casino earnestly today.
1. Adherence to Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth.
Diagrams of what’s called The Hero’s Journey can be found all over, but here is a succinct version of it, per Mr. Campbell himself in The Hero With A Thousand Faces: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder
the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
“Supernatural wonder” might be pushing it, but Jamie Casino’s story arc—character goes about his daily business, metaphorical rocks are thrown at the character who subsequently undergoes spiritual and psychological maturation, hero learns lessons and enacts lesson in his everyday life—is the type of story that humans are conditioned to respond to, and exactly what Campbell was writing about.
Throw Uncle Ben in the mix and swap out that flaming sledgehammer for some synthetic webbing, and you get one of the world’s top-three most popular superheroes. With great power, comes great responsibility.
In less than two minutes, Casino tells us who he is, what he does, why he does it, how to reach him, lays a nice hashtag on us, and takes us on a compressed version of something that Joseph Campbell devoted a 391-page book to.
2. Distilling his rage into an appropriate weapon
Mark Twain once said that the difference between the right word and an ok word was same as the difference between lightning and a lightning bug, but if he were alive he might revise that to “sledghammer” and “flaming sledgehammer.” Never has a more appropriate metaphor been used to smash a gravestone.
1. Sensitivity to public property and/or Casino’s brother’s final resting place
The emotional climax of the Casino saga comes when Jamie removes the sledgehammer from underneath a pile of roses to reveal that it bears his brother’s name, and also is on fire (we have seen the sledgehammer before in the commercial, and it’s apparently a Casino trademark, but this is the first time it’s actually, literally, on fire). Casino then uses the instrument to destroy the gravesite, reducing Michael’s headstone to an explosion of CGI cubes, leveling it completely in the wake of his rage.
This raises a couple of red flags.
1) If the purpose of the commercial is at least partially to raise awareness on your actual dead brother’s behalf and to honor his lasting memory, the emotional climax of that commercial should maybe not be you destroying his final resting place. Destroy the corrupt sheriff’s car. Destroy some remnant of your old life as a seedy criminal defense lawyer. Toss a briefcase full of criminal defense lawyer corruption up in the air, and the bat it into the sun, like a cool dude would!
2) Desecrating the grave of a being who didn’t die peacefully is basically begging for a ghost, in at least several cinematic universes, and especially in ones where black-leather clad fellows wield flaming Home Depot miscellanea in the service of retribution.
That one kid can’t act. It’s like Sophia Coppola in Godfather III.
On the Irony-Free Friday Sincerity Range, which has Zach Braff’s heart as its highest value and the public opinion of Zach Braff as its lowest value, I hereby declare Casino’s Law to be right of center, and fit for consumption.